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Boys & Girls Clubs of America
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Kiersten Wills

Liberal Arts Major(s): Political Science
Minor: Spanish
Hometown: Altoona, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

Initially, I applied for the Stanley E. Degler Washington Program through Penn State's College of Communications. I knew I wanted to intern in D.C. given my background with Political Science and was accepted for that program in November. The program coordinator gave me some guidance for places to apply and actually sent out applications to about 5 places. I applied to internships on my own at more than 20 places, but I finally found my internship with the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) on LinkedIn actually. I sent in my resume online and received a call for an interview within a week.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

When I applied to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, I did so because I wholeheartedly believed in their mission to encourage young students to seize opportunities and reach their full potential. But sometimes, in order to do this, children need someone to believe in them and their abilities. I loved interacting with both my colleagues and Members of Congress who were just as passionate about children's programs as I was. Our elected officials have an overwhelming influence in programs regarding education, child poverty, and child health among others. These legislative initiatives are primarily shaped by advocacy strategies. As my office's only intern this summer, that was what I helped with. I had to track Members of Congress (specifically members of the appropriations committees), their interactions with local clubs, and their policy positions. Then, I would attend congressional meetings and report my notes back to the Government Relations team and we would work through solutions on how to better inform and connect Members of Congress with our clubs, our events, and most importantly, our policy positions. In that sense, I loved the amount of personal responsibility I was given. It made me feel like I was doing something important and contributing to the organization in that I was treated like an equal to my supervisors instead of just an intern.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I have a strong interest in civil rights and public policy. In my studies, I have concentrated on constitutional law and human rights issues, and I am interested in specifically how policy shapes those issues, as well as how policy is structured and implemented. I am also very passionate about advocacy. I've always loved studying history and political science because as cliché as it sounds, it allows one to see the world through another's eyes. But I've realized that, for me, simply studying politics and current events isn't enough. The political process is about representation, getting involved, and using your voice to speak out and advocate for what you believe in. When it's done right, politics is still about advocacy and public service. That's exactly what Boys & Girls Clubs of America stands for. Their mission is "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens." In this sense, this experience has combined my two passions - advocacy and politics. It has taught me a lot about the diversity of children's issues and the intricacies of the American political process. I feel like I'm truly applying my knowledge of government, civil rights, and policy in a meaningful way to advocate for children who may not be able to advocate for themselves.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Upon graduation, I'd like to work in D.C. for a few years, hopefully in either a congressional office or a Government Relations department. Following that, I'd like to eventually attend law school and pursue a career as a human rights or attorney. I have a strong interest in how the constitution shapes public policy, and how those policies directly affect the American people. I aspire to become a public servant for underrepresented groups in society as an attorney and eventually continue that work in a political office. My objective as an intern was to gain hands-on experience with policy at the federal level. I wanted to apply the communication and analytical skills I learned in my classes as well as in my previous internship experiences. This internship experience allowed me to do that and so much more and I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I was given during my time with Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Government Relations Office.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes, I absolutely would! My colleagues were always so welcoming and helpful. All around, it was a great work environment with a lot of variation in day to day tasks. Through my experience with BGCA, I was truly able to better develop my communication, problem-solving, and project management skills. I also learned a great deal about the inner workings of American government and education policy, and I got to live in a city with such a rich history while doing it!

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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